Shortlisted novels for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction have been announced

Learn more about the six novels up for one of the most prestigious literary prize in the region before you order your bundle of books online

The 2018 IPAF winner will be announced on 24 April. Photo: Supplied

By Maan Jalal

Culture 22 February 2018

Contemporary Arabic literature is definitely on the rise. The six authors shortlisted for the 11th International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) are proof that Arab stories in fiction are more diverse then ever and exploring political and social issues through a number of literary techniques.

The six shortlisted novels were revealed by the 2018 chair of judges, Ibrahim Al Saafin, during a press conference held at the Abdul Hameed Shoman Foundation in Amman, Jordan. Over the course of 11 years, the $50,000 prize has quickly become one of the most prestigious literary awards in the Arab world.

The authors up for the IPAF 2018 are Amir Tag Elsir (Sudan) , Aziz Mohammed (Saudi Arabia), Ibrahim Nasrallah (Palestine Jordan), Shahad Al Rawi (Iraq), Walid Shurafa (Palestine) and Dima Wannous (Syria).

Two debut novelists who make the shortlist for the first time are also the youngest – Aziz Mohammed and Shahad Al Rawi whose novel Baghdad Clock has already been translated into English and will be published in June.

The 2018 IPAF winner will be announced at a ceremony in the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi on 24 April, where the author will $50,000 and the shortlisted finalists to receive $10,000.

Find out more about the six novels up for the prize below

The Critical Case of “K” by Aziz Mohammed

The debut novel Aziz Mohammed a Saudi Arabian writer, The Critical Case of “K” was published in 2017.  After reading Kafka, “K” our protagonist decides to keep a diary but finds himself constantly frustrated by his limited abilities, boring life, and the desire to protect his privacy. However when he receives life changing news his health, family relationships are all on the line but at least now, he has something to write about. From illness, childhood and relationships The Critical Case of “K” examines character more than plot or story.

Flowers in Flames by Amir Tag Elsir

A new era is beginning in Sudanese writer Amir Tag Elsir’s novel Flowers in Flames. The protagonist, Khamila, young beautiful and wealthy returns to her hometown of Al Sur from Egypt where she had been studying. However, an extremist group calling themselves Remembrance and History have taken control of Al Sur and declared war on the infidels. This religious revolution is slaughtering people and turning women into objects of sexual pleasure for the leaders of this extremist group. Khamila’s name is changed, her fate in the hands of others as she waits to be married off to one of the princes, perhaps even their leader, a man who calls himself the Pious One.

Baghdad Clock by Shahad Al Rawi

Baghdad Clock, is Iraqi writer Shahad Al Rawi’s first novel. Published in 2016 with sci-fi leanings, it tells the story of two young girls in 1991 who become best friends in a Baghdad bomb shelter where they have taken refuge from the attacks during the gulf war. They share their hopes and dreams, interwoven with fantasy and illusion. But when a stranger arrives from the mysterious future of the city he brings with him prophecies that cause families to flee the city. The friends along with a third girl begin to write a secret history of their neighborhood, to save it from disappearing into history.

The Second War of the Dog by Ibrahim Nasrallah

The prolific writer Ibrahim Nasrallah’s The Second War of the Dog is his third novel to be shortlisted for the IPAF. Time of White Horses, was shortlisted in 2009 and Lanterns of the King of Galilee in 2013. The Second War of the Dog is a fantasy sci-fi novel, a marked difference from the usual generational epics he writes. The protagonist is an anti-hero who transforms from an opponent of the regime that cherishes power to an extremist. The way in which society is set up through a hierarchy of power of greed brings out the worst in people where human alludes are put aside and everything is permissible, even the buying and selling of people’s bodies and souls.

Heir of the Tombstones by Walid Shurafa

Walid Shurafa’s novel Heir of the Tombstones looks at the life of Palestinian Al-Wahid who in someway is trying to make sense of his family history. Al-Wahid is in a prison cell on Mount Carmel where he reminisces over his childhood during the June 1967 war when his father and grandfather were evicted from their village which was then renamed and turned into an artists’ village by Israeli forces. Al-Wahid returns to his family’s after completing his university studies and is refused entry where things then take a more dangerous turn.

The Frightened Ones Dima Wannous

The Frightened Ones is the second novel of Syrian writer, Dima Wannous. Her first novel, Chair, was published in 2008 and she is also a journalist having written for newspapers such as Al-SafirAl-Hayat, the Washington Post and the online outlet JadaliyyaThe Frightened Ones is currently being translated into English by Elisabeth Jaquette, due for publication in 2019. The Frightened Ones follows the character of Suleima and her infatuation with the handsome Naseem who has sent her a pile of papers. Suleima reads every page with detail and finds herself lost in a piece of literature –  an unfinished novel or biography, about a woman controlled by fear. A woman just like her. Why has Naseem sent her the unfinished manuscript? Is he testing her? Is she supposed to finish the ending?

For more inforamtion on the IPAF, the judges, novels and authors visit: www.arabicfiction.org

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